A grant of more than $700,000 means research can continue at SFU into virtual environments for surgery and remote manipulation.
The funding, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, is to be spent over five years by a team of researchers that includes SFU kinesiologist and principal investigator Christine MacKenzie. She says the goal of the research is to develop efficient intelligent tools that enable humans to easily perform tasks and activities in virtual and real environments.
"When we use the standard work station on our desks we move the mouse and we look at the monitor and I call that a remote manipulation task. Vision is indirect because you're looking at the monitor, not at the work space. And manipulation is indirect because it's mediated through an input device like a mouse. What we're trying to do in the virtual hand lab is make vision direct by looking directly at the workspace and make the manipulation direct so the hand becomes the input device. Rather than using a mouse you use your finger as a pointer."
MacKenzie says SFU is probably on the leading edge both in Canada and the world in this area of research. "Our system is extremely accurate," she says. She says the work her team is involved in is important for future applications in hospitals, for example. "I'm very interested in applying this to surgery."